The Basilica of St. Laurence-without-the-Walls, where the remains of the glorious deacon are preserved, is the fifth patriarchal church in Rome. With St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul-without-the-Walls, it is one of the five major basilicas where the Pope alone says Mass at the high altar in order to show that his jurisdiction extends over all the churches in the world which are under the patriarchates of Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople.
Here is held the Station on Septuagesima Sunday, on the third Sunday in Lent, on the Wednesday after Easter, and on the Thursday after Pentecost. The Church invites us to-day to celebrate in this sanctuary the praises of God (Introit, Offertory) to whom this saint bore glorious witness by his martyrdom.
Rome possesses seven other churches dedicated to St. Laurence among which St. Laurence in Paneperna, where the saint was martyred and where they hold the Station on the Thursday of the first week in Lent, St. Laurence in Lucina, where part of his gridiron is kept and where is held the Station on the Friday of the third week in Lent, and St. Laurence in Damaso where is held the Station on the Tuesday of the fourth week in Lent.
St. Laurence was the first of the seven deacons attached to the service of the Roman Church. His duty was to assist the Roman Pontiff when celebrating the Holy Mysteries, to distribute the Eucharist to the faithful and to administer the revenues of the Church, which he distributed among the poor (Introit, Gradual).
Arrested by the prefect of Rome in 258, and called upon to deliver his riches to him, he showed him a crowd of poor people saying: "These are the real treasures of the Church, by the inestimable gift of their faith, and because they convert our alms into imperishable treasures for us."
He was laid on a gridiron under which were placed half-lighted coals, so as to prolong his tortures and make his death more painful.
"Flames were not able to conquer the charity of Christ: and the fire that burned without was weaker than that which within kindled in the heart of the martyr." Indeed he said to his tormentors: "You may now turn my body over; it is roasted enough on that side." And later on: "My flesh is now roasted, you can eat of it." He died in 258. His name is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass among the Roman martyrs (first list).
Let us always recite, as a thanksgiving, the collect of this day placed by the Church after the Canticle of the three youths in the furnace. She makes us beseech God to extinguish in us the ardour of our passions, as He granted to St. Laurence, who was tested by fire and found pure (Gradual), to triumph over the flames of his cruel martyrdom (Collect).
Confessio et pulchritudo in conspectu ejus: sanctitas, et magnificentia in sanctificatione ejus. * Cantate Domino canticum novum: cantate Domino, omnis terra.
Praise and beauty are before Him: holiness and majesty in His sanctuary. * Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle; sing to the Lord all the earth.
(Psalm 95:6,1 from the introit of Mass)
Da nobis, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, vitiorum nostrorum flammas exstinguere; qui beato Laurentio tribuisti tormentorum suorum incendia superare.
Grant us, we pray Thee, almighty God, to quench the flames of our vices; even as Thou gavest blessed Laurence grace to overcome his fiery torments.
From the Catholic Encyclopaedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09089a.htm